Thailand seizes over 1,400 endangered turtles

AFP News brief
01/02/07 05h29 GMT

Thai authorities have seized more than 1,400 live endangered turtles believed to be bound for illegal sale at Bangkok pet markets, a customs official and a US-based animal rights group have said.

The seized animals worth an estimated 23,000 dollars were found in a suitcase in a public bus heading for Bangkok in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, some 280 kilometers (173 miles) south of the capital, they said.

"Custom officials checked the bus at a check-point and discovered the animals. But no one in the bus claimed the suitcase," a Thai official from WildAid said, adding no one was arrested.

"These animals are not (from Thailand) and are very likely to be sold at pet markets in Bangkok," she said.

The seized animals included 1,043 endangered pig-nosed turtles, 248 snake-necked turtles, 131 star tortoises and 33 arapaima fish.

Kreecha Kirdsriphan, chief inspector of Thailand's custom department, said the seized animals were from Indonesia and were currently under the care of the Fishery Department in Bangkok.
Thailand, with its highly developed infrastructure and location, has become a transportation centre for the illicit animal trade in Southeast Asia, animal rights groups say.

Although a smuggler could face up to four years in prison or a fine of about 40,000 baht (1,100 dollars) under Thai laws, the illegal wildlife trade remains rampant here, including at Bangkok's biggest Chatuchak market.

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